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    Entries in Irina Krush (13)

    Sunday
    Apr122015

    U.S. Championships, Round 11: Nakamura and Krush are the Champions

    Congratulations to both Hikaru Nakamura and Irina Krush are in order. They won the U.S. Championship and the U.S. Women's Championship, respectively, and pocketed some nice coin along the way as well - $45k for Nakamura and $20k for Krush.

    Nakamura entered the last round half a point ahead of Ray Robson, and that's how he ended it too. Robson's game finished after Nakamura's, but that Robson would win was clear early on. He faced Timur Gareev, who has been playing somewhat eccentric chess throughout the tournament; today, he went completely out of orbit and left the solar system. Gareev is a great player whose FIDE rating reached a high of 2682 a couple of years ago, so his managing to achieve a lost position with white in just nine moves should be chalked up his having too much talent rather than too little. The game lasted 31 moves, but the final result was seldom if ever in doubt.

    In the meantime, Alexander Onischuk managed to equalize against Nakamura pretty comfortably, and was probably just a few precise moves away from making a draw. Had he done so, Nakamura would have had a rapid playoff against Robson on Monday. Instead, Onischuk made a few little inaccuracies, got in trouble, and then was lost - all within a space of six or seven moves. The fatal moment came for Black when he played 27...Nxf2, which was a tactical blunder. Instead, 27...Rb6 would have led to a double rook ending where White's extra pawn would give him the ability to torture Black for many moves to come, but not probably not win against correct defense. After 27...Nxf2 28.Nd4 Nh3+ Onischuk probably missed Nakamura's 29.Kh1!, winning (at least) an exchange, and he resigned two moves later.

    Nakamura thus finished in clear first with 8/11, Robson in clear second with 7.5 points, and in clear third was Wesley So with 6.5 after another strong win, this time against Kayden Troff. It's to So's credit that he finished so well, and it's to his relief (I hope) that the final margin was such that even if So had defeated Akobian he still would have finished half a point behind Nakamura.

    In the remaining games, Shankland drew with Akobian, Naroditsky drew with Kamsky and, perplexingly, Sam Sevian beat Conrad Holt. It's difficult to be certain about this, in part because the live commentary ended shortly after Nakamura's win and most of what we have to go by is the very fallible result (probably) generated by the DGT boards. Here's the data I have: the tournament website's crosstable and the broadcast board on Chess24 both give the result as a win for Sevian. Moreover, the broadcast board shows Black (Holt) having no time, which offers a reasonable explanation. But look at the game itself: absolutely nothing happened from move 52 until move 99, when Holt finally decided to push his a-pawn up a square to avoid a coming 50-move rule claim, and a move later he lost on time in an absolutely safe position two pawns ahead. If they had been playing without an increment then sure, things like this can happen, but with 30 seconds added after every move Holt must have just lost track of the clock. This is possible, but it's also possible that he just decided that playing the position out was pointless and agreed to a draw, and they didn't bother to stop the clock afterward and/or the kings were put on the wrong squares in the center, at least momentarily.

    We're in rich tangent territory here, and I'll indulge a bit before turning briefly to the women's championship. If it turns out that this is just another DGT error, it might be time to hire some unemployed people to picket that company's headquarters until they make some sort of design fix. But rather than beat that dead horse, here's a new topic: why did the English-language commentators, who were on site, quit their broadcast so early? I'm not sure if the culprit is the St. Louis club or Yasser Seirawan, but this happened all tournament long. I'm sure the Sinquefields are paying him well; is it too much to ask that he (and Jennifer Shahade & Maurice Ashley) actually stay for the entire time? It is frankly incredible to me that the Spanish-language commentary coming from a Chess24 studio in Europe more than once outlasted the on site English-language commentary team based at the tournament site itself. Even if Yaz & crew didn't stick around for all 100 moves of Sevian-Holt, they didn't have to pack their bags when just two of the six games in the open section had finished. The St. Louis club is doing some great things for chess in the United States, but there are some things they could do better - and this is one of them.

    Turning back to the game itself, I should note one especially interesting moment, which would have preempted all of this discussion. Holt was better almost all the way, but a big slip on move 26 gave Sevian the chance to finish in style. 27.Nf5! would have won, threatening 28.Qh8+ followed by 29.Rh7#. The main variation runs 27...exf5 (creating a flight square on e6) 28.e6! (preventing the king from running, after 28...Qxe6 the flight square is gone) 28...Qg7 29.Kf2 (threatening Rh1 followed by Rh8+, mating) and wins. Black must play either 29...Nd8, when after 30.e7! he's going to lose practically everything (30...Qe7 31.Rh8+ followed by 32.Rh7+, 33.Rxe7(+) and 34.Qxb7), or he plays 29...Bf/d7 30.Rh1! Bxe6 31.Rh8+ Kf7 32.Qc7+! Ne7 33.R8h7, when one funny finale is 33...Rbe8 34.Qe5! with mate in three.

    As for the strange way Holt lost - if he lost - it reminds me of one of my luckiest wins ever. After making a huge error in a game where I was clearly better, I had to go into a bad ending a pawn down against a strong expert (approximately 2140 USCF). There were many further adventures in the game, but I somehow reached an ending with king and rook against my opponent's king and queen. This is a theoretical win for the queen, of course, but finishing off the rook isn't trivial against good defense. (Walter Browne initially failed to defeat a computer in that ending in a specially arranged challenge, and years later Peter Svidler once famously failed to win this ending against Boris Gelfand in a crucial FIDE knockout world championship match, in a rapid playoff.) Unfortunately for my opponent, he had only seven seconds to win it, but with a five second time delay every move. (That is, there was a five second grace period each move before the seven seconds would start ticking off.) He made most of his moves without losing any of his time, but at one point he burned five of his "real" seconds, and then around 25 moves into the endgame he spent his last two seconds, and lost. It was a difficult situation for my opponent: just making moves would have been easy, but to make progress against good defense one must concentrate. And once one really concentrates, how does one remember to move?

    So perhaps something like that happened to Holt. Another topic for discussion: should he have kept playing that ending against Sevian, after not making a shred of progress for 48 moves? Normally I'd say that he had carried out the appropriate desire to fight for a win a bit too far, but something important was at stake: a place in the World Cup this September. I'm not sure what the tiebreak situation was in case of a draw: Troff, Holt and Sevian would have all had 5 points and only one last spot was available. (Shankland also had 5 points, but had already qualified from another event.) If Holt had won, the spot would have been his; instead, it's the 14-year-old Sevian who has qualified, along with Nakamura and So (by rating), Shankland (from the American Continental Championship), and Robson, Onischuk, Akobian, and Kamsky from this event.

    Time for a few words about the women's championship. Irina Krush led her closest rivals by a full point entering the last round, and needed only a draw with white against one of them - Katerina Nemcova - to seal the deal. This she managed to do in an efficient and expeditious manner, and she has now won her 7th U.S. Women's crown and fourth in a row. Very impressive! - but it's not the record. Gisela Kahn Gresser (1904-2000) won it nine times from 1944 to 1969; an especially impressive feat considering that she didn't even learn how to play until she was in her 30s! Krush, by contrast, only turned 31 in December, so the odds are very good she will exceed Gresser's mark and then some before she decides to call it a career.

    Saturday
    Apr112015

    U.S. Championships, Round 10: Nakamura and Krush Lead Entering the Final Round

    The open and women's events aren't over and the favorites (Hikaru Nakamura and Irina Krush, respectively) - who are also the leaders - haven't yet clinched. They are both in fine shape entering the final round on Sunday and look likely to finish as champions.

    Nakamura had an extremely important game today, taking on Ray Robson with the black pieces. Robson was, and is, only half a point behind, so this was a major opportunity for him. Alas, there wasn't much excitement in the game. Robson played 1.e4 and Nakamura decided to play solidly with 1...e5. Feeling relatively empty-handed against the Berlin, Robson opted instead for the Scotch Four Knights. That was probably even less successful than a Berlin would have been--if anyone was better after the opening it was Nakamura, and while Robson may have obtained the tiniest of edges later on it was a pretty routine and easy hold for the leader.

    Still, some drama remains. Robson is still only half a point behind, and if he can win against Timur Gareev in the final round (albeit with the black pieces) while Alexander Onischuk manages to hold Nakamura to a draw, there will be a playoff. In fact, a three-person playoff is possible. Onischuk beat Sam Sevian convincingly, and with the win moved to within a point of the leader. Thus if he beats Nakamura (not likely, at least/especially because he'll have black) and Robson draws his game, all three will move on to playoffs on Monday.

    The situation could have been even more interesting had Wesley So not been forfeited in round 9. Today So bounced back marvelously, winning a very impressive game with black against none other than Gata Kamsky. Had he drawn with Varuzhan Akobian yesterday he would have been tied with Onischuk for third, and of course if he had won he'd be tied with Robson. As things stand, however, he's out of the running. (It should be mentioned that if Kamsky had won, he'd have been tied with Onischuk.)

    In the women's championship, Krush is suddenly leading by a full point entering the last round. She had been trailing Katerina Nemcova all event long, only catching up to her after round 9, but now she has jumped ahead. Krush won pretty easily against Jennifer Yu, while Nemcova lost to Paikidze (who also beat Krush!) - albeit somewhat unnecessarily. Nemcova was better most of the way - at times seriously better - but got careless about her king's safety and went from clearly better to simply lost in the space of about four moves.

    Krush has 8/10, and both Nemcova and Paikidze have 7 points apiece. Krush will have white against Nemcova in the last round, while Paikidze has white against Foisor. Thus the women's championship could also finish in a two- or even three-person playoff on Monday, but only if the slumping and lower-rated Nemcova can defeat the surging Krush. Not likely, but you never know.

    Finally, an addendum to yesterday's post about So's forfeit. I cited an article that included allegations that Paul Truong played some role in creating an emotionally disturbing atmosphere around So. Truong has responded on his Facebook page (HT: Allen Becker), to which I link in the interest of fairness.

    Tuesday
    Mar312015

    The U.S. Championships Start Tomorrow (Wednesday)

    The semi-retired Gata Kamsky has won the last two U.S. Championships, but in neither event did he have to overcome U.S. #1 (and now world #3) Hikaru Nakamura. In this year's U.S. championship, he'll not only have to outperform Nakamura, but world #8 Wesley So as well. On the women's side, Irina Krush will be going for her 27th straight title (give or take...it'll be "just" her 7th title and fourth in a row, if she wins). For some reason her main rival, 4-time champ Anna Zatonskih, isn't playing, so her toughest opposition may come from Tatev Abrahamyan.

    Play begins each day at 1 p.m. local time in St. Louis = 2 p.m. ET. The pairings will be determined tonight, and both tournaments are 12-player round-robins. Sticking to the men's event, what do you think: Nakamura, So, or the field?

    Saturday
    Nov292014

    Qatar Masters: Giri Leads With 4/4

    So far it's a fine performance by the young Dutchman and top seed Anish Giri, who is the solo leader of the Qatar Masters Open with 4/4. Thus far he hasn't been tested, and today he crushed his opponent, Mikhailo Oleksienko, in just 18 moves on the white side of a Caro-Kann - and he was probably winning after Black's 10th move. (In case you're wondering, Oleksienko is a GM with a 2620 rating; this isn't some sort of master vs. amateur rout at the local club!) Ouch.

    Five players are just half a point behind - Evgeny Tomashevsky, Nils Grandelius, Yuriy Kryvoruchko, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and Pavel Eljanov - and then there are a ton of players with 3/4, including Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik started with two draws and a very shaky win in round 3, but in round 4 he finally looked more like himself and is getting back into the hunt. The top American player so far, Sam Shankland, also has 3 points, and several Americans have 2.5 points including Daniel Naroditsky, Alex Lenderman and Irina Krush. (Krush had an especially impressive victory in round 3 over Sergey Fedorchuk, and with the black pieces at that.) Another notable 2.5 pointer is Bela Khotenashvili. She defeated Baadur Jobava in round 1, and today in round 4 she defeated another super-strong GM, Gabriel Sargissian.

    It's a very strong tournament, and as you can see from the foregoing even top GMs aren't getting much "respect" from their opponents. Especially notable among the super-GM victims are Arkadij Naiditsch, whose 2719 rating still left him with an 0-2 start, and after a win in round 3 he lost to an IM in round 4 to fall to 1-3. Even worse: Viktor Bologan started 0-3 and only managed his first draw of the event today, against an FM. (Worse yet: while some might conceivably have a tough time in Qatar because they're unused to the climate, I believe Bologan has spent a lot of time working as a trainer there over the years. He's just having a very bad tournament.)

    Five rounds remain.

    Tuesday
    May202014

    Kamsky, Krush Win The U.S. Championships (Again)

    It wasn't easy, but defending champions Gata Kamsky and Irina Krush both managed to keep their U.S. Championship crowns. For Kamsky, this is his fifth title and fourth in the last five years, while for Krush it is her sixth title and third in a row.

    In the open championship Kamsky had the best tiebreak of the three playoff participants, so he waited for the winner of the bid-Armageddon semi-final match between Alex Lenderman and Varuzhan Akobian. Akobian had the low bid with 29:57, so he was given Black and draw odds against Lenderman, who got White and 45 minutes. The position was around equal when Lenderman made a fatal miscalculation. He sacrificed a pawn, expecting to regain it after 22.Na4 with a positional advantage. He completely missed (or at least underestimated) the weakness of f2, and Akobian quickly finished him off with a direct attack and advanced to the final.

    An Armageddon game at the stage could eventually be reached, but before that could happen the players would have a couple of normal game/25s (with five second increments) first. Akobian had White against Kamsky in the first game, got nothing, and the game was a relatively uneventful draw. In the second game Kamsky played his usual patient chess, essaying the London System and playing for a little queenside pressure. Objectively the position after 17 moves was approximately equal, but Akobian, who was already starting to run low on time, tried to resolve the position immediately with 17...dxc4 18.Nxc4 e5. He was probably better off keeping the position intact, but it's hard for most of us not to just "do something", especially in a high pressure game with time dwindling away. The same goes in spades for Akobian's 21...c5, which was an outright error. After this mistake he was just about lost, and he was soon down a pawn and down to his last seconds on the clock; bad news against anyone, and hopeless news against Kamsky.

    In the women's championship things proceeded quite similarly. Krush, likewise the defending champion, had the best tiebreak scores and could await the winner of the bid-Armageddon game. The winning bid here was very similar to that in the open event, with Tatev Abrahamyan getting Black and draw odds with 29:45 on her clock to Anna Zatonskih's 45 minutes. Here the similarities end, as Abrahamyan was simply unfamiliar with the theory of a major line - not good. 12...Nxc3 is the standard move; instead, her 12...Nc5 was a lemon. When Zatonskih found the brilliant and correct 16.Nxd5!! it looked like it would be game over, and the commentators were already making her the favorite for the final, given how sharp she seemed to be. Abrahamyan's response was a further error, and on move 20 Zatonskih had several winning moves. Instead, she blundered with 20.a4?? - a good idea in general, but not properly timed - and after this Black was not only not dead lost, but better. From there Abrahamyan always kept control, and although both sides committed various inaccuracies Zatonskih never had the chance to be better. In the final position Black was around +50 according to the computer, but with White enjoying some threatening possibilities and a handy perpetual available Abrahamyan took the easy way out and proceeded to the final.

    The first g/25 was a mess, with Krush's position constantly vacillating between clearly winning and much better, with an occasional fleeting moment where Abrahamyan might sneak out with a draw. The last such moment came on move 66, when after a long stretch of very resourceful defense Abrahamyan could have drawn with 68...Rg8+ 69.Rb8 Rb6!! 70.Rxg8+ Kxg8, when any sideways rook move will be met by 71...Ra6+, winning the pawn or repeating. If instead 71.a5, then 71...Rb5 72.a6 Rb6 and the pawn is lost due to zugzwang. Missing this last chance, she lost the game. In game 2 Krush equalized with Black, but 20...Nxd5? was too cynical. Yes, it traded some material, but gave White the opportunity to target Black's weak b- and d-pawns, not to mention the Black king by means of the h7 square and the a2-g8 diagonal. Abrahamyan also enjoyed a huge advantage on the clock, but Krush defended well (except on move 31) and eventually both advantages disappeared. In the end Krush had the better position - and crucially, one that could not be lost - and White eventually acquiesced in the draw. (All the games can be replayed here, with my on-the-fly notes.)

    Congratulations once again to Gata Kamsky and Irina Krush! Their challengers are getting closer and closer, but close, as they rightly say, isn't good enough.

    Sunday
    May182014

    The U.S. Championships: Co-Leaders Heading For Home

    The last couple of rounds have been extremely eventful at the U.S. Championships, and have seen reversals of the reversals! When we left off last time, Varuzhan Akobian had won three in a row to take a half-point lead over Gata Kamsky and a full point lead over early leader Alex Lenderman and several others. In round 8 Akobian won again, Kamsky drew and Lenderman bounced back nicely by beating the very solid Alexander Onischuk, and with the black pieces at that. It got even better for Lenderman in round 9. He won what looked like a fairly drawish position against Daniel Naroditsky while Akobian lost his first game of the event, an all-around nightmare game against Sam Shankland. That left Akobian tied with Lenderman for first with 6/9, with Kamsky half a point behind after he was unable to convert an advantageous position against Mackenzie Molner. Josh Friedel is also in the hunt after his 9th round win over Sergey Erenburg, like Kamsky just half a point behind the leaders.

    So here are the key pairings for rounds 10 and 11:

    Round 10:

    • Molner (3) - Lenderman (6)
    • Akobian (6) - Kamsky (5.5)
    • Friedel (5.5) - Shankland (4.5)

    Round 11:

    • Kamsky - Friedel
    • Lenderman - Akobian

    Perfect!

    In the women's championship Irina Krush's draw in round 7 against Sabina-Francesca Foisor left her a full point behind Anna Zatonskih after the latter's win over Alisa Melekhina. Fortunately they still had their head-to-head match before them in round 8, and Krush gradually managed to convert her significant opening edge into a win. They are thus tied with 6/8 heading into Monday's final round (they have a rest day on Sunday), and Tatev Abrahamyan is only half a point behind in case they fail to win in the last round. Here are the key pairings:

    • Ni (3) - Krush (6)
    • Baginskaite (1.5) - Abrahamyan (5.5)
    • Zatonskih (6) - Nemcova (4.5)

    In case of a two-way tie for first there will be a playoff, and if it's between Krush and Zatonskih it won't be their first. Playoffs, if necessary for either (or both) group(s), will take place on Tuesday.

    Saturday
    Oct192013

    Irina Krush, Grandmaster

    If anything, I thought it would happen sooner, but I'm pleased to learn from the current issue of ChessVibes Training that U.S. Women's Champion Irina Krush achieved her third grandmaster norm at the Baku Open, and as her current FIDE rating has passed the 2500 threshold it means she has earned the title.

    Congratulations!

    Monday
    May132013

    U.S. Championships, Round 9: Krush Wins the Women's Title; Kamsky and Ramirez Need a Playoff

    In the women's championship, Irina Krush came into the last round needing only a draw against Camilla Baginskaite to seal clear first, and that's just what she got. She played it safe, but even within those self-imposed parameters she managed to outplay Baginskaite and win a pawn. That should have been enough to win, and under normal circumstances I suspect she would have closed the deal. Perhaps overly excited about clinching tournament victory, she got a bit careless and allowed her opponent some counterplay. Wisely, she decided to regain her bearings, reset her sights, and offer a draw. It was accepted, and her resulting score of 8/9 won the event (and $18,000), half a point ahead of Anna Zatonskih, who defeated Sabina Foisor in the last round. Tatev Abrahamyan took third with 6.5 points. (Full standings here.)

    In the main event, Gata Kamsky could have clinched clear first with a win over Ray Robson, but although he seemed close to winning Robson managed to keep just enough activity to sneak out with a draw. That left the door open for any one of three players to catch him: Alejandro Ramirez (who faced Larry Christiansen), Alexander Onischuk (facing Kayden Troff) and Conrad Holt (whose opponent was second-seeded Timur Gareev). Two failed, but one succeeded.

    Onischuk had the white pieces and a big rating advantage against Troff, but despite that never came close to winning. The game was drawn, and Troff secured his first GM norm - not bad for anyone, especially for someone who turned 15 less than a week ago!

    Holt had a crazy game with Gareev that should have ended in a draw, but perhaps Holt wanted so desperately to win that he rejected a simple drawing continuation a few moves before the finish. I don't know that it was the last drawing chance, but it was certainly the easiest: 77...Qxd5 78.Bxd5 Nf5+ followed by 79...Nd4 and then capturing the b-pawn. Maybe he missed it, or maybe he hallucinated and forgot that 78...Nf5 was check (if it weren't check, White would have Be4, pinning and winning). Or, as I suggested above, he wanted to go for the win at all costs. Whatever the story, he didn't manage to catch Kamsky.

    Ramirez did, however, to his own surprise and delight, outplaying Christiansen and finishing with a nice attack in an ending with heavy pieces. Ramirez (who incidentally became a GM at 15) will have a playoff match with Kamsky tomorrow/today (Monday) at 12:00 noon St. Louis time, and they will play two 25-minute games. If it's tied after that, then they will have a bid Armageddon game.

    (Full standings here.)

    Saturday
    May112013

    U.S. Championships, Round 8: Kamsky, Krush Lead Entering The Final Round

    Gata Kamsky has been leading the U.S. Championship from the start, but hasn't quite managed to slam the door on his pursuers. Today he had the second seed, Timur Gareev, on the ropes thanks to a pair of sound extra pawns. Gareev shed them going for a desperate counterattack, and it worked well enough for him to save a draw. The key moment came on move 32, when Kamsky was faced with the threat of ...Nf3+. There were four sorts of ways to deal with the threat: move the king, move the rook, defend the f3 square or counterattack (e.g. the rook on c6 or the queen on e7). The third and fourth options were pretty good (e.g. 32.Re3 or 32.Qe7), and the second - moving the rook - was best of all, at least if the move was to d1. Kamsky chose the first option, which lost most of his advantage. It's a natural move, because then one no longer has to worry about ...Nf3+, whether it involves a fork or not. The drawback was that f2 lacked protection, and when Gareev finally managed play 36...Qxf2 the position was a forced draw, as was elegantly demonstrated in the game's conclusion. A good save by Gareev, but he remains a full point behind Kamsky.

    Had there been a winner in the Alejandro Ramirez-Alexander Onischuk contest, that person would have caught Kamsky in first. They drew quickly though (not by design, I'm sure), and Kamsky kept his edge. They remain tied for second (half a point behind), and they were caught there by Conrad Holt. Holt beat Joel Benjamin, taking advantage of his passed c-pawn after Benjamin chose 22...Rf8(?) rather than the necessary 22...Rc8. Holt would have kept some chances after the latter move, but probably not enough to win. After 22...Rf8 the c-pawn survived, and Holt combined its advance with threats to the black king to finish the job.

    Leading Round 9 Pairings:

     

    • Robson (4.5) - Kamsky (6)
    • Ramirez (5.5) - Christiansen (5)
    • Gareev (5) - Holt (5.5)
    • Onischuk (5.5) - Troff (4.5)

     

    The women's championship saw Irina Krush face a major test, and she passed it convincingly. Tatev Abrahamyan was within a point and had the white pieces against Krush. Her big chance! Krush has long been a very well-prepared player though, and today she produced an early novelty in the trendy "Brazilian Taimanov" with 12...Bb7. (12...Ne5 is the usual move, though Black has tried several other moves as well.) Maybe White's best is to take on c6, but Abrahamyan's 13.Bd3 doesn't look ideal. White meets 12...Nxd4 with 13.Qxd4, but that's impossible here, so Krush took on d4, then kicked the bishop with ...e5 (and thanks to the bishop on b7, there's no Nd5 to worry about) and then planted the offside knight on f4. Maybe now Abrahamyan should have played 16.h4, keeping the g-pawn, but maybe she was worried about 16...Bb4. It's funny that in many Sicilians White is frightened, and properly so, of the exchange sac with ...Rxc3 - sometimes even when Black doesn't get a pawn for further compensation. In the Taimanov, however, exchanging lines of the form 1...Bxc3 2.Qxc3 Qxc3 3.bxc3 rarely concern White, even though Black ruins White's pawn structure without sacrificing anything.

    Abrahamyan kept some compensation for a long time, though never quite enough, but then the game took a sharp tactical turn on move 41. Had Krush played the safe 41...Rg7 she would have maintained a large, probably winning advantage, but she thought she could get away with 41...g3. She did get away with it after the natural 44.e7(?); if, however, Abrahamyan played the cool 44.Qd5! she would have equalized the chances: 44...Qxd5 (forced) 45.exd5 g1Q 46.Bxh7+! Kf8 47.Rxg1 Rxg1+ seems to be a draw. Black has too much to worry about with White's e-pawn and possible c5 pawn sacs in the air.

    Missing this one chance, Abrahamyan lost and fell out of the race for first. Anna Zatonskih won her game though (against Iryna Zenyuk), and remains alive in the race for first. Here are the crucial final round pairings:

     

    • Krush (7.5) - Baginskaite (4)
    • Zatonskih (6.5) - Foisor (3.5)

     

    Saturday
    May112013

    U.S. Championships, Round 6 & 7: Kamsky, Krush Continue To Lead

    Gata Kamsky still leads the U.S. Championship, but after three straight draws the field is closing in a bit. In round 6 he made a comfortable draw with Black against third-seed Alexander Onischuk, and was seemingly in control in round 7 against Alejandro Ramirez when he was hit by a brilliant shot: 30...Bh3!! This essentially forced a draw on the spot, and if Kamsky fails to win the title this year this game may loom large, as he could have maintained a serious edge earlier, e.g. with 29.Rff6. But then again, who couldn't miss a move like 30...Bh3, especially from a ways back?

    Onischuk drew in round 7 with Conrad Holt (my dark horse contender for the title) with some difficulty, but a draw's a draw and he is tied with Ramirez, half a point behind Kamsky entering the penultimate round. They will play on board 2 today, with Ramirez getting White.

    About Holt: if there was a prize for the "move of the tournament", he, like Ramirez, would be in the running. In round 6 against Larry Christiansen, there was a remarkable bit of tactical one-upsmanship. Holt's 43...Qc6 looked very strong, threatening both the rook on a8 and 44...Rg4+, picking off the queen. It looked like the move would net the exchange, as 44.Rxf8+ Kxf8 45.Qxf5+ seemed like White's best; White would keep some small chances, but Black would be winning. Instead, Christiansen uncorked the ingenious 44.Ra7! This not only saved the rook, but it saved the queen, too, as 44...Rg4+?? walks into 45.Nxg4 Qxf3 46.Nf6+ Kh8 47.Rh7#!

    Holt admitted to missing that move, but he rose to the occasion and trumped it with the spectacular 44...Bc5!! (which Christiansen missed). This is a subtle double attack: the rook is attacked, of course, and so is White's queen. Black once again threatens ...Rg4+, because after Nxg4 Qxf3 Nf6+ the king can go to f8 rather than h8, and then there is neither mate nor perpetual check. (White could try to set up the perpetual, e.g. with 45.dxc5 Rg4+ 46.Nxg4 Qxf3 47.Nf6+ Kf8 48.Rd7 - a pattern worth remembering if you're not already familiar with it - but Black can break it up with 48...Qc6.)

    Back to the standings: facing Kamsky in round 8 will be the second seed, Timur Gareev, whose performance has been sluggish, at least given what one might expect from his rating. Nevertheless, he has worked his way back into contention, and after defeating Ray Robson in round 7 he has closed to within a point of Kamsky. Unluckily for Gareev, while both he and Kamsky were due for Black this round, the color clash was resolved in Kamsky's favor, and he (Kamsky) will get the white pieces.

    Key Round 8 Pairings:

    • Kamsky (5.5) - Gareev (4.5)
    • Ramirez (5) - Onischuk (5)
    • Holt (4.5) - Benjamin (4.5)

    In the women's championship Krush's run at perfection ended when she was held to a draw by Sabina Foisor in round 6, but she bounced back with a win in round 7. Tatev Abrahamyan closed to within half a point by winning in round 6, but then she drew in round 7 to again fall a full point off the pace. Also a point back is Anna Zatonskih, who has won her last two games. Round 8 is crucial, as Abrahamyan has White against Krush. (The women's event is a round-robin, as opposed to the Swiss system in the "men's" event.)

    Key Round 8 Pairings:

    • Abrahamyan (5.5) - Krush (6.5)
    • Zenyuk - Zatonskih (5.5)